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Digital Conversations

The day is Saturday.  The scene is a town somewhere in Essex.  Noreen Scragshot stands before a department store window.  She takes her mobile from her bag and taps a name:

 

“Hi Trix:   it’s Noreen – you all right, mate?file9931276033013

Who? Paul?   Yeah, well, he texted me.  His signal’s real bad down there.

You better?

Your headache, and that?

Lovely!  Trix?  Guess where I am?

I am.  I’m outside Browngrow’s!  You should see the red halter tops they got in the window – you know, them ones with the glittery bits like the one Cassiopeia nearly wore at Baz’s party?   Get down here, mate!

What?

Oh yeah, I forgot the funeral!  So, so sorry.  She was a lovely woman, lovely.  We’ll miss her.   So who’s got the terrible twins – David?

He’s with you.  So who….

Wally?  Trix, love, was that wise?

Yeah, I know he gets on with them.  All the same….

Margie organised everything, didn’t she?  Bless her!  Did they give her a good send-off?

They didn’t!   Seriously?

Yeah, I know she was in the corps de ballet once, but I’m not sure a tutu is….

No, well if Margie said it was alright, I suppose.

Not a bad figure for a woman of ninety-seven.  David said that?

No, well, I supp-o-se.  Here, Trix, I hope you stayed off the bevvies at the reception, mate;  you know what you’re like.

Who?

NO!  Really?  Well, that’s Angelina for you.

She fell in the….   Trix, are we sure a chocolate fountain is entirely proper for a funeral?

Yes, I know.  Margie organised it.  Here, speak of the devil.  Listen, mate, I’ve got Wally on ‘call waiting’.  I’ll say ta-ra, yeah?  Speak to you soon…”

 

Noreen bids an unwilling goodbye to the halter tops and turns for West Street and home.  She takes Walter Bollomy’s call.

 

“Hello Wals.  How are you getting on?

Kids?

Oh, I know.  Trix never disciplines them, Wal.  No naughty step, see?

Yeah, I know she lives in a bungalow.  Little tip, darlin’.   They love to play hide and seek.

Yeah.

Get them going on that and it shuts ’em up for ages.

What?

You’re breaking up, Wals.  Something about ‘lots of boxes’?

Wally?

Oh, he’s gone.”

 

At the pedestrian crossing Noreen calls Paul Bagstart.

 

“Paul, darlin’.

Yeah, I got your text.  You’re not coming tonight – why, mate?  I’ve done the pancakes, and I done my special avocado fondant dip, and everything.

Hmmm?

Trix isn’t coming, Paul.   She’s got a funeral, hasn’t she?

What do you mean, you’ll be knackered?   I’m knackered, doing all that catering.  Cheers, Paul.  Thanks a lot, mate.

Yeah, you get lost, an’ all!”

 

Noreen cuts Paul off.  The crossing lights change.  Watching her ‘phone, Noreen collides with an elderly pedestrian.

 

“Here, Mrs!  You want to look where you’re going!”

 

Walter Bollomy’s name flashes.

 

“Silly cow!”

 

She opens Walter’s call.

 

“Hello Wals?

Line’s still bad.

Hide and seek.  Yeah.

What?

Wally?

Nope, lost you.  He’s gone.”

 

Noreen calls Charles Windrush

 

“Hey Chas?  It’s Noreen.

Blimey, you’re breathin’ ‘eavy an’ all.  What’s going on?   I was on to Paul just now and he sounded like he’d been pushin’ that Porsche of his.  Yeah, (chuckles) again. He never gets that out of breath normally – not watching football, and that.

You aren’t?   Both of you?

Yeah, I know you’re the only one with a roof rack.  What’s that got to do with anything?

Oh, you were helping Jack move house!  Of course!  I forgot it was this week.  How are you getting on?

All done.  What, so now you’ve got to get over to Wally’s?  For the footy, I suppose.

Yeah, well.

Listen, Trix is trying to call me back.  I’ll see you soon, yeah?”

 

Trixie Ballerdash’s name is flashing.  Noreen answers.

 

“Trix!  All right, mate?

How’s Angelina?

Aww!  You got her home, then?

She’s collapsed where?

Let her sleep, mate, it’s the only way.

Why’s Paul complaining?

Let me get that right; he can step over her but he can’t close the door.

Yeah, s’pose that is one door he’d need to close, isn’t it?

Just tell him to get on with it, mate.  Angie won’t know a thing.

Yeah. Listen, Trix, get over to Wally’s place and get the twins back.

I know,  mate, I know. It’s just, well, it’s just Wally, isn’t it?  He worries me, he does.

Well, Okay.  See ya!”

 

Walter Bollomy’s name is flashing

 

“Wally, what is it darlin’?

Wal, it’s no good; I can’t hear you.

Hide and seek, yeah.  Listen, Trix is on her way over….oh, bugger!

Look, Wal, there’s no signal, yeah?  Text me, darlin’.

No, TEXT me.  Tee, ee, ex….  Wal?

Wal?”

 

Noreen closes the line with a sigh.  She turns into the road which will lead her away from the town centre and up High Tower Hill.  The walk home is a pleasant enough stroll through avenues lined with larches – a matter of twenty minutes to Neverlands Crescent where she resides, or thirty minutes on six-inch heels. She will soon be within sight of the two bright orange pillars that frame her front door.  Jack Lopghast’s name flashes on her ‘phone.

 

“Jack!  Sweetheart!

I was just thinking of you!  I said to myself, Jack’s moving house today:  I must call him and see how he….

Yeah, how did you get on?

All gone smoothly?  That Paul’s a real broad pair of shoulders, isn’t he?  I wouldn’t say no to an Argentine Tango or two with him, Jack, I don’t mind admitting.

Ooo you dirty sod!  What d’you mean, he couldn’t raise so much as a laugh?  Yeah, he said he was knackered.

You both are?  Well, it’s moving, isn’t it – all the stress and that.

Chas has buggered off?

He’s left you and Paul to do all the shifting in?  That’s not like Chas, Jack, now is it?

Yeah, I know he’s the only one with a roof rack.  Let me tell you sweetheart, the way he drives, you’re lucky you haven’t got a houseful of matchwood.

Yeah.  Listen, sweetheart, where was he going?

He had to what?

Oh, gawd, I’ve got Trix on the other line.  I’ll get back to you, yeah?”

 

Noreen closes the call, and answers Trixie’s tone.

 

“Hi Trix!

What?

No, no.

Calm down, mate!  What is it?

Stop sobbing, I can’t hear what you’re saying, yeah?

Slow down, mate – take a nice deep breath.

Oh my god!

You’ve lost one of the twins?  Which one’s missing?

Daisy.  Daisy’s missing.  You’ve been right through Wally’s house and you can’t find her, yeah?

You called out for her?

What about little Robbo – doesn’t he know where she is?

They were playing Hide and Seek and Daisy was hiding.  No, so he wouldn’t know,would he?

No, I’m not bein’ stupid, Trix.  No, I’m not a plank – you got no reason to call me that.  What did Wally say?

You’re getting emotional, Trix.  Calm down, mate.

Here!  What are you accusin’ me of?

No.

No, I don’t care what Wally said, he’s a bleedin’ liar!  Hide and Seek was definitely not my idea!

No Trix, it’s no good blaming me.  I told you Wally was a bad choice, now, didn’t I?  You’ll have to call the police, mate.

You have;  that’s good.

Yes, you go.

Robbo’s what?

He’s licking Angelina?  Oh, the chocolate…

SODDIN’ HELL!

What?

Sorry.  Sorry Trix!  Chas just went flying past me in that van of his.  He’s a maniac, that man!  You look after yourself, Trix love.  I’ll get onto Wals and see what I can find out.”

 

Noreen taps Jack Lopghast’s name on her ‘phone.

 

“Jack, sweetheart, it’s Noreen again.  Sorry to cut us off, love, but Trix is in a right tiz.

Yeah, she’s lost one of her little monsters.

No, of course it’ll be all right, we ain’t got no paedo-tricians round here, nor nothing.  She’s just panicking, as usual.   Anyway, you were saying about Chas buggering off and leaving you and Paul to finish?  Funny thing, Jack sweetheart, Chas just passed me tearing down the ‘ill in his van.

Yeah.  Yeah, he did have something banging around on the roof rack, now you mention it.

‘At least you know the excuse was genuine’ – what do you mean?

An old cupboard out the back of Wal’s place – it’s been there for months, has it?

No, I don’t remember it.  Mind, I haven’t been round his for months, now I think of it.  Anyway, you told Wally to get it shifted because it made his garden look like a scrap yard?

Chas promised him he’d take it down the tip for him this afternoon, did he?

Wal told him he’d leave the back gate unlocked so he could nip in and pick it up, yeah?

That’d be what he had on the roof rack then, just now, when I saw him, wouldn’t it?

Probably.  Right.

Jack, sweetheart, I’m going to ring off now.

Yeah.  I think I’d better give Trixie a call…”

# 

Author note: 

Obviously, ‘Essex Woman’ is a wicked stereotype.  All Essex women are not married to footballers, showy, vulgar, insensitive or dense.   But the stereotype is much more fun, innit? 

© Frederick Anderson 2016.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.

 

 

Twelfth Night, or What You Will…

So the frivolities are over, the obligations fulfilled, the promises made.  The bride and bridegroom of the old year have been waved away, leaving  the land to rest and await Spring’s wakening.  The coloured lights, the glitter’s memory, the gleam of hope must warm us for a while as we prepare against Nature’s frozen sleep.

Yet there is an air of apocalypse about this year’s turning.  Highest winds, heaviest rain, warmest recorded days – they  march together holding their placards high to remind us – the world is old; it has no more to give.

So many good people have spent their winter festival in darkness this year:  no coloured lights, no tinsel, no happy gathering of family or friends to warm their hearts, just the rising waters of burst rivers about their feet, the howl of the storm around their heads.  Although there will always be those who smile and push the truth aside:  next winter will be better, next year all this will be forgotten – although some will insist it is ‘God’s punishment’, and go about in sackcloth and ashes exhorting us to use coloured bins, to drink our own recycled urine, to store our sunny days in batteries as if that will somehow tip the scales, yet there is only one truth.  We all know it, in our hearts.

We are too many.

I have this one wish.  If you like it is my New Year’s resolution.   It is not for me, my tenancy has nearly expired.   It is for my children I ask that we please accept:  there is a god – not some mythical deity reigning over an undefinable paradise, no, but a god whose existence is provable, who has us in her care.  By our actions, rather than by cheap words and mindless ritual, we should honour her.  Yet we turn our backs.  We exploit her, we use her gifts for our own selfish gains.  When, occasionally and understandably, she gets cross she reminds us of her power.  In the tsunami, the earthquake, the typhoon, the epidemic or the drought.  She is reminding us now.  In fact, she is giving us our final warning.

Before the contagion of monotheism took hold our ancestors well knew Nature’s power – they grew wise in the art of living beneath her panoply and they prospered, in the terms of their time.  They brought us to our place in the world of today.  And no, I am not advocating  a return to the grass hut, or the shadow of a new plague.  Civilisation has brought many good things to the table; progress is not all bad.  Conspicuous consumption, over-indulgence and greed – those things are bad;  and no religion is needed to remind us of basic morality – that we can see for ourselves, whether or not we choose to confess it.

Somehow – peacefully, I would hope – we need to get some sort of grip on the numbers.  We have to comprehend the selfishness of the individual when that runs contrary to the interests of our species and control our natural desire to multiply.   If we do not do so, if we continue to delude ourselves that somehow technology can be made to stretch the resources of our planet indefinitely, then Nature will act.  Humankind will become just another brief chapter in that dusty tome of evolution which nestles on a shelf somewhere among  the stars.

The way of man is the pointless fight.  It is the way of man that the final battle is always lost.

That is something we have to change.

That’s it.  Sorry to add a sombre note, but there are some things I just have to say!  Back to the stories next time….

 

© 2016 Frederick Anderson; all rights reserved.   No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form (other than for the purpose of re-blogging) or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

 

 

 

Mother’s Day – A Matter of Family Values

In my country, we have Mothering Sunday.   That’s today.

It’s the fourth Sunday in Lent, if anyone is interested in the jigsaw puzzle of the St. John of the ladderChristian calendar, and it remembers St. John of the Ladder, or St. John Climacus (Climacus – climb – ladder; gettit?  Don’t you just love Latin?).  It was once called Laetare Sunday, and is variously still known as Refreshment Sunday or Rose Sunday.  The latter because, apparently, of a golden rose traditionally sent by the Pope to Christian sovereigns.  Why?  Because Wikipedia says so, that’s why.

These days, Christian sovereigns are probably sick of an ever-growing stack of golden roses:  the pot in the royal throne room (the one just beneath the self-portrait of George W. Bush) is likely to be over-brimming with the things.   As for refreshment Sunday, that’s intended to mean refreshment of religious vows, rather than setting up a canteen in the vestry – or so I’m told.  Anyway, moving on.

In secular terms, as our beloved Archbishop is fond of saying, Mothering Sunday has simply become Mother’s Day, and though its origins are different to the American version, the essence of the festival is much the same.

It’s the day the chickens come home to roost.

For our grown-up chickens have a duty that must be fulfilled.  Our door must be visited, flowers must be presented, platitudes offered.

“Sorry, I know it’s not much this year, Mum.  We’re seriously short of money. What with the alterations to the house, the new Jacuzzi and Amanda’s kitchen makeover, there’s not much left to go round.”

“You’ll be planning your budget really carefully, then?”

“Yes.  That’s what the weekend in Florence was all about.  Just sitting down in a nice Trattoria with some wine and talking it over.”

‘I don’t suppose the 5K your father lent you entered your thinking?’  No, that’s a question that remains unasked; more because you fear the answer, than the risk of killing the conversation.

As for ourselves, we are past the age when we have mothers of our own, so Mother’s Day represents no major digression from our usual Sabbath routine.  Were we church-goers it might mean a service in a church where the faithful have made a bit of an effort:  a few flowers, some of what only a Christian congregation can call ‘gaiety’.  As it is, all we have to sacrifice is our sleep.  Rising at the crack of dawn is strongly advisable, because the progeny will be queuing at the end of the road waiting for sunrise.

The first knock comes at seven am.

“Hello Dad – not too early, is it?”

“My, those flowers look nice.”  (The all-night garage always raises its act for Mother’s Day).

The next knock comes at eight-thirty.

“Hello, Mummy, you look a bit pale.  Are you ailing?”

“Lack of sleep, dear.  My, those flowers look nice.”  (Discretion demands you conceal the first bouquet because the second one is likely to be identical).

By ten o’clock the fog of children will have dispersed and life will have returned to normal.   A day of creative flower-arranging beckons while we try to analyze our success-rating with our offspring (tricky, this one:  do we regard the very earliest arrival as the most ardent, or simply the one who wants to get the onerous event over soonest?)  and express our admiration for the innate sense of timing involved.  The earlier visitor will always contrive to be gone before the second arrives, because they do not ‘get on’ with one another.

What then, if anything, does Mothers Day signify – for us, the ex-parents, the holders of the torch everyone is waiting so eagerly for us to put down?  Enjoyment of a traditional family day when those we withstood for eighteen or so childhood years return to haunt us, briefly; or merely another clutter of cards, a few more needlessly sacrificed trees?   Or something in between?   Do the fruits of our loins observe the tradition because they want to, because they feel that need to reconnect to their roots, or rather through a desire to check that we haven’t sold the Ming vase that sits in their half of the will?

It is hard to give answers.  A wise owl on one shoulder might express the opinion 0wl 1owl 2that there are too many days in a year when family is meant to honor its obligations to its adjacent generation, whilst the wise owl on the other might claim that family unity is the cement that binds society together, and therefore cannot be reinforced too much.  (At which point I might remind myself that certain Sicilian families of recent history were very strong on the use of cement in resolving family issues).

My solution?  I accept what I cannot change.  I do not seek the answers.  After all, these shoulders are big enough for two owls:  why put one in a position where it has to peck the eyes out of the other – and which owl would win?

Which of our prodigal children will stay long enough to convince us they are happy to be here? Who will listen rapturously as we regale them with  details of our IBS symptoms, or try to persuade them to join our line-dancing class?  Who might even stay to lunch?

Ah well, tick the diary for another year.  Then cast forward to their next return to the fold – about a week after my birthday, perhaps.